Florida silences partisan crowd with run at end


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- A cheerleader most of the first half,
Vanessa Hayden played like one of the best centers in the country
in the final 20 minutes of Florida's opening round win in the NCAA

The SEC's defensive player of the year scored 15 of her 17
points in the second half and Florida scored the final 10 points to
beat New Mexico 68-56 in the first round of the Midwest Regional.

Florida (19-10) advances to Monday's second round of the Midwest
Regional, where the Gators will face Baylor.

"I wanted to come out and have an immediate impact," said
Hayden, who sat out the last 11:50 of the first half in foul
trouble. "My teammates were working hard in the first half and
they wanted me to come out in the second half and make an
impression. I think I did that."

Still, the 12th seeded Lobos had a shot at the upset over the
No. 5 seed Gators.

New Mexico (23-8) used a 14-4 run late in the game to get within
58-56 with 2:57 left on a 3-pointer by Melissa Forest. But the
Lobos didn't score again.

The Gators' Tishona Gregory scored on a three-point play with
2:10 left, then hit two free throws 30 seconds later. A layup by
Danielle Santos stretched the lead to 65-56 with a minute left.

"Our focus had to be defense," Florida coach Carolyn Peck said
of the Gators' late 10-0 run. "The Lobos were trying to penetrate
off the screen. We tried to play containing defense and once we got
possession, we just tried to make good decisions and not play too

Florida's Tashia Morehead scored 16 points, all of them in the
first half, and hit a season-high four 3-pointers. She had 11
rebounds. Bernice Mosby added 17 points and 7 rebounds.

With Morehead going 4-for-4 from behind the arc, the Gators
hardly missed Hayden in the first half.

"When I first went out, I was very frustrated and at that point
I became a cheerleader for my team," Hayden said. "I told Tashia,
'You have to step up."

Morehead did. She carried the Gators by hitting 6 of 9 shots and
grabbing seven rebounds in the first half. A year ago on this day,
Morehead scored 46 points for Gulf Coast Community College against
Western Nebraska in the title game of National Junior College
Athletic Association tournament.

"This is the time of year that Tashia Morehead can shine,"
Peck said. "She's a tremendous force."

Morehead went 0-for-4 shooting in the second half, but it didn't
matter once the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Hayden took over inside.

She scored 14 points in the first 7{ minutes and grabbed nine of
her 10 rebounds after halftime. She finished with her 50th career

Lindsey Arndt led New Mexico with 11 points. Forest had 10
rebounds, but Florida won the rebounding by a 45-36 margin.

The Gators also took out the red-clad, partisan New Mexico crowd
of 16,029. The Lobos rode the homecourt edge and their raucous fans
into last year's round of 16 with wins in The Pit over Miami and
Mississippi State, but the Gators' threesome of Morehead, Hayden
and Mosby were too tough.

New Mexico put up 21 3s in the game and hit just five. Fifteen
of the Lobos' first 20 shots were 3-pointers.

"We shot poorly in the first half and got behind right away,"
New Mexico coach Don Flanagan said. "One thing we didn't want to
do was play from behind. But we dug ourselves too deep a hole and
almost got back."

The loss snapped New Mexico's 11-game winning streak and
provided an early exit for the Lobos in their third straight trip
to the tournament.